Penal Populism and Children of Imprisoned Parents
Since prisoners’ families — perhaps especially prisoners’ children — can be severely affected by the use of imprisonment, and since this area has suffered from a remarkable lack of awareness historically, it is obvious to ask whether and to what degree there is currently political focus on prisoners’ children. The answer to this question is ambiguous. On the one hand, the amount of research into the effects of parental imprisonment has grown significantly during recent years, and the UN, the human rights system and various NGOs have afforded prisoners’ children much more attention. In some countries, the issue has also gained political attention and practical support from reform-oriented prisons and prison services. I argue that this is the case in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. But on the other hand, the general political climate surrounding punishment and crime has become increasingly problematic for prisoners’ children in many countries during the last couple of decades. Penal policy internationally has moved towards tougher sentencing, zero-tolerance, harsher prison conditions and growing prison populations. This chapter shows how this penal populism can harm prisoners’ children severely, even in a Scandinavian welfare state like Denmark.
KeywordsPrison Population Prison Sentence Penal Populism Parental Imprisonment Public Sentiment
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